Truly unbelievable, that the new year has already brought us so much sadness and heartbreaking celebrity deaths. Hollywood is mourning the losses of so many stars. Just last week we had the passing of Lisa Marie Presley, 54,the only daughter of Elvis Presley. The singer-songwriter died on January 12 following a suspected cardiac arrest. Lisa Marie proved she was a musician in her own right by releasing her debut album, To Whom It May Concern, which she wrote or co-wrote every song. The album reached No.5 on the Billboard 200 chart, and would later go on to be certified gold. Her sophomore album Now What, also debuted in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. She was married four times, to Danny Keough, Michael Jackson, Nicolas Cage, and Michael Lockwood and her four children, her son passed back in 2020.
In the early days of 2023, we lost Earth Wind & Fire drummer Fred White; legendary guitarist Jeff Beck. The guitarist died at age 78 on January 10. After suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis, he peacefully passed away. Beck had just recently wrapped up a tour in support of his “18” album with Johnny Depp. He was an eight-time Grammy winner and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once with the Yardbirds in 1992 and as a solo artist in 2009.
Today, we lost Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida who passed at 95. Often described as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” her films included Beat the Devil, the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Crossed Swords. She co-starred alongside the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Rok Hudson and Errol Flynn. Her career faded in the 1960s and she moved into photography and politics. Nicknamed La Lollo, she was one of the last surviving icons of the glory days of film, who Bogart said “made Marilyn Monroe look like Shirley Temple.”
Movie mogul Howard Hughes, showered her with marriage proposals. Off camera, she enjoyed a feud with Italian star Sophia Loren. She died in a Rome clinic, her former lawyer Giulia Citani told the Reuter’s news agency. Hughes had just taken control of a major studio. He was more than 20 years older than Gina and famous for a string of affairs with glamorous Hollywood women-including Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner. Gina avoided Hollywood, worked in France and Italy-making films such a The Wayward Wife and Bread, Love and Dreams. Her first English-language picture was opposite Bogart in John Huston’s Beat the Devil-shot on the Amalfi coast. She also starred with Frank Sinatra in Never So Few- a wartime romance shot in Myanmar and Thailand. Back in the 1960s she moved to Canada-for lower taxes and a promise of legal status for her Yugoslav husband. While her film career was slowing down, she managed to find time to work with Rock Hudson. Her last major film was alongside David Niven in King, Queen, Knave in 1972. Despite her beauty, she never quite found Mr. Right. In her time-she was one of the greats. Her life story was an exotic as any of the roles she played.
My condolences to the Presley family. I was fortunate to meet Lisa Marie back in the early 2000s, when she appeared at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. I truly hope Priscilla Presley has the strength to endure such a heavy loss. I remember, when Carrie Fisher passed and her mom Debbie Reynolds, how difficult it was for her. Debbie Reynolds untimely death about two weeks later was so heartbreaking.